The Fractal Boundaries of the Soul

Last night I was stuck in traffic in the rain, thanks to a muddy road destruction bottleneck where They are working on the part of the big storm-sewer project that goes under the only road connecting where I was and where I needed to be. Maine’s alternate state motto is “Yah can’t get theah from heah,” and most of the time it’s true. Where I was, I not only couldn’t get there from here, I couldn’t get anywhere else either, and I was impatient and resentful because I’d forgotten to go get toothpaste three days running, and the only place that still sells the kind I like is the small health-food store that closes early, and I’d left the house early enough to nip over there and still get to choir practice on time, and there I was, stuck on the hill in a traffic jam in the rain and NOT BUYING TOOTHPASTE.

One takes time for contemplation where one finds it.

One tries not to take too much time for contemplation while one is supposed to be gainfully employed at matters not immediately related to contemplation. And this is why, on my desk at work, I have plain little note pads where the non-work-related things that enter my brain get jotted down so I can, in theory, let go of them until the business day is done. (In practice, other things more interesting than my day job often present themselves, filling all brain space available.)

So I end up with small pieces of paper that read something like:

  • Find more theo blogs
  • it is not friday yet dammit no matter how much i want it to be
  • Need to write some things out & no time this weekend b/c [spouse]
  • Go Thru Box of Stuff I Don’t Need
  • Toothpaste
  • Make a point of telling SOMEONE about this crazy thing.
    GET OUT OF THE CLOSET!!!!!!!
  • arrange music for [music director at church] b/4 rehearsal thurs
  • Write inquiry email to top 2 schools
  • SAMWICH BAGIES fold-over
  • what do i really deeply want? roots and wings (?)
  • consider buying shoes. also trousers
  • I need to get better at trusting. this is a tricky thing to figure out how to learn.
  • committee minutes!!! also send email
  • am I procrastinating? or am I rushing things? what would each of these mean?
  • KITTY LITTER also diet coke
  • check [undergrad alma mater]’s website for how to get alumni transcripts & have them sent where?
  • nobody is ever going to write me a recommendation because this is crazy
  • start figuring out christmas already
  • write initial inquiry essay
  • LAUNDRY

It amuses me, the juxtaposition of my burning theological questions and my errands list. It’s not a clean boundary: sacred over here, profane over there, wide gulf between them. There is no cloister here, no holy of holies forbidden to the mundane world. The Deepest Mystery – God, if you want to name it that – is stuck in the traffic jam with the kitty litter and the toothpaste, the late sun of an autumn evening cracking its way through purple and orange clouds.

I am grateful for the handful of blogs I’ve found so far from people who are willing to tell in public how they work it: this business of integrating a sacred calling into a life that’s otherwise in this world with the toothpaste and the deadlines and the road construction. Making it all fit is feeling really tricky at the moment – or at least it’s about re-prioritizing, about not stuffing the sacred into a box out of the way because I haven’t got the energy or the time or the heart to deal with it. It doesn’t stay in the box anyway; it leaks out and dribbles ministry all over my life regardless of whether I am avoiding it or ignoring it or fighting it. In any case I am tired of wrestling this peculiar angel and it seems there is nothing left to do but engage it, welcome its presence, and see what it wants me to do next. I’ve been struggling with this for a long time, and it’s been terrifying.

This week? I’m too tired to be afraid of it any more. Not my will, but Thine, be done.

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4 Responses to The Fractal Boundaries of the Soul

  1. Lioness Elise says:

    “The Deepest Mystery – God, if you want to name it that – is stuck in the traffic jam with the kitty litter and the toothpaste, the late sun of an autumn evening cracking its way through purple and orange clouds.”

    Yes!

    “In any case I am tired of wrestling this peculiar angel and it seems there is nothing left to do but engage it, welcome its presence, and see what it wants me to do next.”

    Pesky angels. They always outlast a person, yah? *wry grin*

    I like reading what you’re writing about this. I’m praying for you as you go on, and cheering from the sidelines. (Really far away sidelines, but still, cheering from here.) Also, a dear friend of mine got inspired to write an essay by the discussion over on ML, and it’s got maybe a few relevant comforting bits in it, so here it is just in case: http://gleewood.org/threshold/2012/09/27/one-spirit-in-the-dark/

    From my path, I wave at you over on your path in an encouraging fashion. Helloo! How are you over there? Need anything? Keep going!

    • C. says:

      Can I do the “Oh, eek, someone’s READING this?!?” dance now?

      Seriously, thank you.

      I bopped over to your friend’s page and it looks like we’re geographical neighbors, at least relatively speaking.

      If I were reading this particular story instead of living in it, I’d flip a few chapters ahead to see how it turns out. I’m cautiously optimistic about the ending, but the plot twists for the next couple of chapters are going to be interesting…

      • Lioness Elise says:

        Definitely do the dance! That kind of dancing is a lot of fun, I find.

        Jenett’s a wise one. If you wind up getting a chance to have a cup of tea with her sometime, you might have an excellent conversation. She was very helpful to me when I converted to Catholicism a few years back, and she knows how to be lighthearted about serious things but still be in the land of deep pondering.

      • C. says:

        I vaguely considered Catholicism decades ago, when I was in the process of not being Southern Baptist any more. (Where I lived at the time, those were pretty much the top two choices.)

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